Inerrancy: An Ever-Relevant Doctrine, Part 1


By Kenn Chipchase

In recent years it has become increasingly common to hear comments that inerrancy is overemphasized and is not essential to affirm. Theologians like Michael Bird1 and N.T. Wright have spoken on infallibility’s importance but stop short of affirming inerrancy. In a 2014 written interview following the publication of Surprised by Scripture2 Wright spoke about the historical significance of inerrancy as a rebuttal to modernist approaches to Scripture, but argues that many have taken inerrancy too far and the label is of “limited usefulness” in our day.3 Bird has blogged about similar concepts stating the American inerrancy debates have resulted in “weird shibboleths and myopic fixations.”4

Are their claims correct? Is inerrancy unimportant today? Should the church focus her energy on other things? It is the contention of this article that the inerrancy debates are as relevant as ever and the church must remain vigilant to guard the faith that was once-for-all handed down to the saints and preserved in the pages of Scripture. The reality is that the historic battles over the doctrine of inerrancy never ended, and the implications of denying its truthfulness are catastrophic to any semblance of the Christian faith.

Inerrancy Is Still Under Fire

One can be tempted to think of the battles over inerrancy as historical debates: theologians of the past duked it out with theological liberals, and it is now a settled issue. Many books have been written, like B.B. Warfield’s The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible,5 and statements were formed, like The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy,6 which have drawn the lines and one either embraces inerrancy or they do not. Sadly, it is not as simple as that.

While the present-day fundamentalist movement does stand on the shoulders of great stalwarts of the faith who have fought these battles, the reality is that the war is far from over. When Dr. Peter Enns was dismissed from Westminster Theological Seminary (PA) in 2008 because of the unorthodox views of inspiration and inerrancy expressed in his book Inspiration and Incarnation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005; he released a second edition in 2015), the topic of inerrancy was thrust into the spotlight in a dramatic way leading many to reconsider their commitments to this vital doctrine.

Among them was the late Dr. Michael Heiser, who wrote a series of blog articles wrestling with the concepts and he eventually sought to find a “middle ground and then steer through it” between the traditional view on inerrancy and an outright rejection of it, leading to a “soft” inerrancy that affirms the truthfulness of the overall message of the Bible even if some particular facts are not true.7

N.T. Wright, Peter Enns, Michael Heiser. These are significant names in the realm of evangelical scholarship, and the subsequent waves have not stopped. While one might be tempted to think that conservative churches and church members are insulated from the academy, the reality is that many of these scholars are training pastors, have written very accessible works, are highly respected, and have created content targeting the average believer not just the academy. The net result is that as their influence has spread, so have their beliefs about matters like inerrancy.

Ligonier and Lifeway Research’s survey shows this growing influence. Every two years their “The State of Theology” survey polls the nation.

They ask questions about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible and trace the developments over time. In 2022, over 25% of self-professing evangelicals either agree or strongly agree with the statement “The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.”8

These surveys reveal that the “evangelical” understanding of Scripture is lamentably inadequate and the influence of inerrancy deniers has grown. If one assumes that conservative churches are not influenced by these trends, he runs the risk of failing to arm his people for the battle at hand. This is not to be an alarmist. Fear of those who propagate anti-inerrancy arguments is unnecessary since truth never needs to be afraid of investigation. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to ignore them and pretend like they do not exist. The battle for inerrancy is far from over, and pastors, parents, and teachers would do well to be well-versed in its defense.

Faithfully Teaching the Bible Means Teaching Inerrancy

The question of whether someone will affirm inerrancy is really a question of whether that person will commit to faithfully teaching what Scripture says.9 Many texts assert the claim that God’s Word is true down to every jot and tittle; to faithfully teach the Scriptures, inerrancy must be embraced and taught. Consider these texts (all quoted from the ESV):

“The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” (Ps 12:6). Such silver has no imperfections.

“The law of the LORD is perfect… sure…right…pure…true” (Ps 19:7-9).

“Every word of God proves true” (Pr 30:5). This is a definitive statement. God does not miss. He does not make mistakes. When He speaks, the words are true. Every last one of them.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” and “until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Mt 24:35; 5:18). These words of Christ are usually (and correctly) understood to speak of the enduring significance and eternal nature of the Word of God, but they also communicate its truthfulness. Not a single iota or even a dot will pass away. It is all true and will be shown to be so, down to the last pen stroke. Consequently, if one is going to faithfully teach the Bible, he or she must necessarily teach inerrancy. Scripture itself demands it.

Conversely, a denial of inerrancy makes faithfully teaching the text impossible. If some aspects of the Bible are in error, this forces the question: Which parts? How can one be sure? Will one faithfully teach what they believe to be in error? That last question is one of ethics. No teacher with any ethical standard would faithfully teach as true that which they believed to be in error, so the net result of denying inerrancy is necessarily a departure from the text and its truth claims. Textually, logically, and ethically, any commitment to faithfully teaching the Scriptures demands a commitment to the doctrine of inerrancy.


1 Michael Bird, Seven Things I Wish Every Christian Knew about the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2021).

2 N.T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture (New York: HarperOne, 2014).

3 “N.T. Wright on the Bible and Why He Won’t Call Himself an Inerrantist,” Accessed 2/23/23.

4 Michael Bird, “Saving Inerrancy from the Americans?” https://michaelfbird.substack. com/p/saving-inerrancy-from-the-americans. Accessed 2/23/23.

5 B.B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1980).

6 See Accessed 2/23/23. The Chicago Statement’s definition of inerrancy has been assumed for this article.

7 Dr. Heiser helpfully collated all those articles in one place (there are many!) which can be accessed here:

9 “Faithfully teaching” here means that what is taught is an accurate reflection of what the text says and means according to the intent of the author.

Kenn Chipchase, B.A., M.S.. Kenn is the planting pastor of Pillar Fellowship in Jeffersonville, IN, and cohost of the Do Theology Podcast found at


I think it's interesting that Logos extensively promoted Michael Heiser and his writings.

Wally Morris
Huntington, IN

I sometimes wonder if the argument is less about inerrancy and more about "What is truth?" The inerrancy oftens is proprogated or taught to try to reconcile what is in Scripture and what is discoverable or seen outside of Scripture. Either it is conflicts with science, archeology or other written history records.

The defn of truth IS a key component of the inerrancy debate. If we accept a statement as "not quite true" (i.e. Matt 27:52-53) because genre allows it, then someone can deny just about any statement in the Bible while still claiming to believe in some form of inerrancy. The ETS has a major problem with this issue which it is reluctant to confront.

Wally Morris
Huntington, IN